Now that the dust has settled down a bit, I've been wondering about BOC's touring strategy - or more accurately, the seeming lack thereof. I'm rather fearful that BOC may be spreading themselves too thinly - at the moment, they almost seem to be getting treated like a covers/cabaret band - I don't think they actually do weddings, funerals and barmitzvahs, but it's getting so that I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Realistically, BOC are a limited precious resource and need to be kindled and nurtured. They have a finite number of shows left in their lockers and when I think of some of the recent shows where they've travelled a few thousand miles (eg Irvine, CA) to play a brilliant gig to three men and a dog, I despair.

I think the hard truth is we need to be put on BOC rations - I know this won't go down too well, but rationing never does.

Take the recent UK tour, for example. Now don't get me wrong - we all loved it - the small intimate vibe that we got in some of those small venues was fantastic - but for the most part, they were preaching to the converted.... us!! They're not going to sell any more records to us - we have them all already - and then some!!

So what do BOC get - even just from a plain economic point of view - out of doing a tour like this last one playing to small venues, some only half-filled?? Did it even get the BOC name better known - perhaps sowing seeds for the future?

Not really - there was zero promotion for this tour. In Nottingham, even the club itself didn't bother to draw anyone's attention to the fact that BOC were playing there that night. How's that work out for anybody? I'm surprised anybody got to hear about it. I myself heard a number of anecdotal accounts of how former fans accidentally heard that BOC would be in town and turned up thinking it might be a covers/tribute band...

The morning after one show, a fan was walking down the road and spotted a guy in a Godzilla shirt and said "Great show last night, eh?". The guy in the zilla tee didn't know what he was talking about and was stunned and sickened to hear his heroes had actually played a show in his town the previous evening!! Now that's what I call poor promotion. I know how he felt - I only recently found out that the MC5 had once played Liverpool - mind you, it was back in the late 60s and I was probably only about 6 or 7 or whatever at the time but still, it hurts....

On a practical level - logistically, this latest tour was pretty tough. Whoever organised it had clearly not studied a map of the UK beforehand, with some pretty tedious and unnecessary criss-crossing of the country.

The one that made everybody sit up and wince when they first saw it was Bilston to Aberdeen, then Glasgow, then back down to Manchester than back up to Newcastle!! Plus - a day or two off along the way would have benefitted the band and the travelling faithful alike. They - and us - are getting on a bit, y'know. Now, where did I put my teeth...?

So, here's the sort of things I think BOC's management should be thinking about from now on:

For a start, I think they should start to pick and choose their gigs a bit more - no more 11 shows in 11 days (though I did love it, at the risk of undermining myself); if a run of shows is put together (eg the US West Coast tours), then there should be some promotion days factored in for doing the radio/tv stations/newspapers etc plus the odd day off too.

And why not a trip to some sunny destinations where they haven't played before - Australia comes to mind (they'd go down a storm), Brazil, China, Iraq...

Plus, I think they should play more multi-band line-up festivals - getting them in front of non-BOC crowds and watching them convert 'em would be brilliant. That's part of the problem being a BOC fan and someone asks you who you're listening to and you say Blue Oyster Cult... it's either who the hell are they (depending on the age of the person asking) or are they still going?

That's why it was interesting to see, at a few of the shows, a number of fans brought along BOC "virgins" (friends, work colleagues etc) for a BOC baptism of fire - and - reportedly - many came away mighty impressed, to say the least.

We all know that if you give BOC a chance they'll give a great account of themselves on any bill. I know they're not a "cool" band from a style/fashion point of view - so much these days is based on style rather than content - perhaps if Buck grew his hair and wore the white suit, and Eric got back into his leathers then they'd be a "cooler" proposition for some people.

Plus they're heading towards the big six-zero, age wise - that's never going to be "cool" yet Aerosmith (in many ways their contemporaries) don't seem to have any problems packing them in to the big stadia around the world - no Leeds Irish Centre for them!! How's that work, then?

BOC, too, deserve to play in front of larger audiences so... how best to do it? The multi-band festivals scenario I mentioned would be one way. Whilst BOC were playing London recently, there was a MASSIVE rock festival in Sweden - everybody and his mate played that festival - BOC would have been EXCELLENT for that.

Then there are the UK festivals - I know they had a bad Donington twenty odd years ago, but BOC would be a fantastic addition to Glastonbury or some other prestigious event!! Who knows what good would come from a successful appearance there...

And don't forget - Glastonbury is filmed also and goes out over here on both cable and terrestrial TV so that would show some people who BOC are and let others know that they're still going strong!!

That leads me to TV. An appearance over here on the Jools Holland show - which, incidentally, was running whilst BOC were touring - could have reaped dividends. I shut my eyes and I can see BOC on that show. It first struck me when I was watching Queens of the Stone Age on there, and then again when Electric Six were on. How cool would that be?

I love BOC and I love the fact that they're still playing and I'd like it to stay that way for as long as possible. Will they still be touring when they're 70? Erm... I doubt it, unless it's a tour of the Florida retirement communities so let's realise we only have them for a limited time and let's treat 'em with the respect they deserve - less gigs but bigger and better ones (as a result of better and targetted promotion) and an attempt to try and broaden and expand their fan base...

See you all at next year's 15-night tour of UK bingo-halls and scout huts...

Ralph [ July 2003 ]